Our two porters are college kids on break. They are from my guide Mahesh’s village, so they are known and trusted. They were shy the first day or so, but that has changed now. We’ve talked about their struggles in life, and I ask and prod, pushing the edge of what is in this culture possible to talk honestly about including their dreams and possible futures.
Amrit said he wants to be in business, hopefully international business. He’s bright, inquisitive, earnest, and straightforwardly honest. What he wants, he knows he can’t have, so why go there, was his underlying unspoken, resigned response. It took days for him to say what he really wants and doesn’t want in life. His Father spent much of his working life in Saudi Arabia, coming home to visit the family only every five years or so. It began as a year contract, but the family grew dependent on the income and had moved to Kathmandu so the kids could have a good education and a chance at a better life. He is still there and wants to come home. This move would however, require Amrit to quit college and work full time, perhaps in Saudi Arabia, to support his parents and younger siblings. The sacrifices of the parents are to be visited on the children. This would be a death sentence to Amrit, but duty to family overrides everything. He and I continue to discover and implement solutions to this distressing situation, even months after my return to America.
Dipak is much more shy. Though he has a quick, open smile and ready laugh, there is intensity to his core being. Who he is is under tight reign and not easily revealed, so I was shocked the second day when I asked him what he wants in life. His face lit up and without a second’s pause, he said, “I want to go to America!” When I asked why, he looked down, wouldn’t say, and wandered away. At the end of the trek we were all feeling comfortable and more ourselves. I had seem him in the courtyard of the teahouse the last afternoon unselfconsciously going through series of dance steps. They were so exquisitely beautiful and natural, I immediately stopped to watch and be swept up in his unconscious quietly joyful expression. In one series he was a soaring bird and in another it seemed he was in some sort of dream. I have followed contemporary dance since a teenager and was on the Malashock Dance board for seven years. Rarely, if ever, have I seen such natural grace and pure expression.
By the last day of the trek, trust and affinity were the new foundation of our relationships. Even though I was perhaps intruding too far into his private world, I had to ask about his gift for movement. Looking down, he shyly replied, “I have always loved to dance.” I again asked him what he wanted to do in life. He looked me straight in the eye and unequivocally stated, “I want to dance!” Oh, I see. America.
In Nepal dreams are always in c
Dreams steeped in resignation make weak tea. Duties performed equal someone else’s survival.onflict with what “reality.” Families discount the meaning and value of the children doing something that correlates to who they really are. What the kids want in life is very low or non-existent on the family’s priority list. It simply has too little to do with real life, a life based in survival. Even staying in college is constantly questioned. Sometimes my questions don’t really register, as we only have the lens of our own culture to see themselves and life through. Billions of people are born to this life. There are just two more kids in a big world that doesn’t really care. How can I?